Aug 10 2008
Avdotia Istomina was one of the most famous ballerinas of the Russian ballet in the 19th century. Having said that, I must add that her origin and place of birth remain unknown. My intense web analytics search did not reveal any of her ancestors. Supposedly, she was born in 1799. She was brought to the ballet school by a flutist in an Army orchestra when she was just six years old. She was the best student of the First ballet master Charles Didelot who managed to pass to her the best techniques, artistic methods and progressive ballet moves and positions.
She debuted in the Russian Imperial Ballet when she was only sixteen. Charles Didelot was very proud of her. None of his other female dancers appeared on stage as often as Istomina, nor danced as many roles as she did. For a long time Istomina, as a a prima ballerina had no equal in the Russian and, possibly, European ballet.
All young noble Russian aristocrats and courtiers were in love with Istomina. Famous writer Alexander Pushkin dedicated her beautiful lines in Eugene Onegin. Noblemen were competing for her heart. These dangerous competitions led to dueling during which several of them were killed. Among those who died for her was influential young Count Sheremetev. Even Russian famous playwright and diplomat Alexander Griboedov was shot through the palm during one of those dangerous competitions.
The contemporaries describe her as a medium built, well-shaped brunette. She had black, fiery eyes veiled by long eye-lashes, great strength in her feet, aplomb on the stage, and together with that, grace. Lightness and speed in movements; her pirouettes and her elevation were astounding.
She was on the peak of her fame when suddenly famous Didelot left the theare after a conflict with theater administration in 1829. It all went down the hill after Father of Russian ballet left. Many romantic leading roles were taken away from Istomina and she played older characters on stage as the years rolled by. Her salary was lowered twice and in the end she requested her retirement from ballet and it was officially given to her by the emperor Nicholai I. Her days ended in relative obscurity in 1848.
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